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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 77

The Common Root of Supremacists – Part 1

By Habib Siddiqui

Thanks to Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, what was once a mistrust has now evolved into unfiltered love and fondness for the government. The white supremacist see one of them in the highest citadel of power. They feel emboldened and empowered, and have energized other hateful chauvinists – home and abroad - to unleash their violence.

The Hindutvadi supremacists (also called Hindu nationalists) both inside and outside India are the biggest supporters of this evil entente in the West. It was no surprise that during the election campaign in 2016, Trump declared himself “a big fan” of Hindus and praised India's Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, the very man who as the chief minister had hitherto been found to be complicit in the killings of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat, let alone the daily lynching of Muslims in the last few years. Many of Trump’s policy advisers are also linked to the Sangh Parivar - i.e., parties spawned by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which include Vishva Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Bharatiya Kishan Sangh, and of course, the ruling BJP or the Bharatiya Janata Party, and many others with extremist Hindu ideology and program for Hinduization of India (Bharat).

As aptly noted by researcher Aadita Chaudhury in the Al Jazeera (13 Dec., 2018), while an alliance between the Hindu far right and the Western alt-right may appear confounding on the surface, it actually has a long history, going all the way back to the construction of the Aryan race identity, one of the ideological roots of Nazism, in the early 20th century.

“Many members of the so-called "alt-right" - a loosely knit coalition of populists, white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis - turned to India to find historic and current justifications for their racist, xenophobic and divisive views. Using a specific, "white nationalist" brand of Orientalism, they projected their fantasies about a racially pure society onto the Indian culture and in response received a warm welcome from Hindu fundamentalists in India,” Chaudhury writes."

Some history lesson may help us to understand this nexus well.

Ever since Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species” in 1859, language development was seen by many in relation to cultural development. German philologist and Orientalist (in particular, an Indologist) Max Mueller (1823-1900), a sincere admirer of Darwin, argued that a Caucasian race of nomadic warriors known as the Aryans, originating in the Caucasus mountains in Central Asia, invaded Northern India and Iran. One branch came to Iran, then continued to India (somewhere between 1800 and 1500 BCE) and another branch went to Europe. The Indian branch conquered the indigenous (Dravidian) people and imposed on them its language, Sanskrit, and its civilization called the Aryan civilization (2600 - 1500 BCE), which was wrongly considered to be superior to the indigenous Indus Valley civilization. The Aryans brought with them their own Vedic religion, which was codified in the Vedas around the 1500 to 1200 BCE.

Never mind that for the Aryan invasion theory to be viable the Aryans would have had to discover mountain passes among the treacherous Hindu-Kush mountains, most of which are snow-free only three months a year, let alone the fact that the Indus Valley Civilization that preceded Aryan invasion was much superior, this theory is accepted by most historians. This problem has led to the modification of the Aryan Invasion Theory into the Aryan Migration Theory, which says that Aryan migrants found mountain passes and entered the Indian sub-continent during the snow-free months and settled within or close to the Indus valley civilization. Multiple waves of migration are possible, causing intermingling of the immigrant and local populations. There may have been significant exchange and assimilation of culture and language on both sides.

Typical of the Euro-centric supremacist eccentricity of the 19th and early 20th centuries, these theories propelled the notion that the aboriginal occupants of India were primitive people and the achievements of ancient India was credited to the invading Aryans. Later in the 1920's with the discovery of the Harappa Mohenjo-Daro sites of the Indus valley civilization, which was obviously extremely advanced for its time with planned cities, standardized system of weights and bricks, etc., the Aryan Invasion theory was modified to say that the nomadic barbarian Aryans had overthrown an advanced urban civilization.

Muller's work contributed to the developing interest in Aryan culture, which was to lay the very foundation for race-based supremacist ideas that were to give birth to evil ideologies like Nazism, Hindutva and White Nationalism. Interestingly, for Muller the discovery of common Indian and European ancestry was a powerful argument against racism, after all, he laid the hypothesis that the foundation of European civilization and Indian civilization were from the same group of people. Muller was careful to note in his later work that he thought Aryan was a linguistic category rather than a racial one.

But the damage was already done through Muller’s faulty Aryan Invasion Theory, which was used by Euro-centric intellectuals to propose their own visions of supremacy of the white race and conquest of Asia, Africa and Latin America by Europeans. For instance, it was left to Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882), a French aristocrat, who adopted the term "Aryan" as a racial category. He believed that there were three basic races – white, yellow and black – and that everything else was caused by race miscegenation (or mixing), which Gobineau argued was the cause of chaos. The "master race", according to Gobineau, were the Northern European "Aryans", who had remained "racially pure". He considered the Southern Europeans (to include Spaniards and Southern Frenchmen), Eastern Europeans, North Africans, Middle Easterners, Iranians, Central Asians, and Indians to be racially mixed, who had degenerated through the miscegenation, and thus less than ideal. He considered the black race to be the least developed. Thus, his ideology of race was based on an idea of blonde northern European "Aryans" who had migrated across the world and founded all major civilizations, before being diluted through racial mixing with local inferior populations.

Through the works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855-1927), Gobineau's ideas later influenced the Nazi racial ideology which saw "Aryan peoples" as innately superior to other putative racial groups. The Nazi ideologue and official Alfred Rosenberg (later to be tried at Nuremberg and executed in 1946 by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity) believed that the Nordic race was descended from Proto-Aryans, who he believed had prehistorically dwelt on the North German Plain.

The Nazis considered the purest Aryans to be those that belonged to the "Nordic race" physical ideal, known as the "master race" during Nazi Germany. Although the physical ideal of the Nazi racial theorists was typically the tall, fair-haired and light-eyed Nordic individual, such theorists accepted the fact that a considerable variety of hair and eye color existed within the racial categories they recognized (e.g., Adolf Hitler and many Nazi officials had dark hair and were still considered members of the Aryan race under Nazi racial doctrine).

In September 1935, the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws. All Aryan Reich citizens were required to prove their Aryan ancestry, one way was to obtain an Ahnenpass (literally, "ancestor pass") by providing proof through baptismal certificates that all four grandparents were of Aryan descent. In December 1935, the Nazis founded Lebensborn (literally: "Fount of Life") to counteract the falling Aryan birth rates in Germany, and to promote Nazi eugenics.

Meanwhile, in India, the British colonial government had followed Gobineau's arguments to foster the idea of a superior "Aryan race" that co-opted the Indian caste system in favor of imperial interests. In its fully developed form, the British-mediated interpretation foresaw a segregation of Aryan and non-Aryan along the lines of caste, with the upper castes being "Aryan" and the lower ones being "non-Aryan". The European reconstruct of Aryanism not only allowed the British to identify themselves as high-caste superior race, but also allowed the Brahmins to view themselves as on-par with the British, let alone sowing the seeds of division along the religious line. Further, it provoked the reinterpretation of Max Muller's "Aryan" theory, which gave rise to the emergence of Hindutvadi supremacist ideology in the 1920s.

---- To be continued>>>>

- Asian Tribune -

The Common Root of Supremacists – Part 1
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